From its earliest history, Edgefield developed a reputation for violence. The bloody fighting of the Cherokee War of 1760 was followed by years of lawlessness and retribution during the Regulator period. period. During the American Revolution this same extreme violence was continued with Patriots and Tories engaged in a vicious and bitter civil war.
In 1816, an itinerant minister, Parson Mason Locke Weems, who had lived in Edgefield, published "The Devil in Petticoats," a dramatic sermon chronicling the deeds of the legendary murderess Becky Cotton. He lamented, "Will the Lord have mercy upon Old Edgefield! For sure it must be pandemonium itself, a very District of Devils!"
In the antebellum period, many Edgefield men were participants in the tradition of dueling. Among the famous Edgefieldians who dueled were George McDuffie and Louis T. Wigfall. In 1856 Congressman Preston S. Brooks caned Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts in the floor of the U.S. Senate. The 1878 Booth-Toney shootout, the 1903 shooting of newspaper editor N.G. Gonzales by Lt. Governor James H. Tillman, and the 1941 Timmerman-Logue affair, all garnered national publicity, perpetuating Edgefield's reputation for violence.
Over the years, violence in Edgefield was decried with alarming frequency in its newspapers. It has been said that blood has been shed on every square foot in the Town Square. By the end of the 20th century a number of eminent historians, journalists, and novelists had written extensively about Edgefield's violent past.